Look for increasing development of bioplastics for the medical market. In one of the more interesting announcements at last month’s MD&M show in Anaheim, CA, Arkema said it is in the process of developing a sustainable, bio-based acrylic polymer for medical devices that will feature extremely high impact strength. Introduction is scheduled for mid-2011.
No details are currently available, but it’s expected the compound will be an acrylic blended with polylactic acid (PLA), possibly in the 20 to 40 percent range. That route would be no surprise because Arkema is a major developer of additives that boost performance (particularly impact resistance) o of PLA, which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from corn starch, sugar cane, and other crops, even tapioca.
Arkema scientists are looking for feedstocks that could produce acrylic in place of methyl methacrylate (MMA), which is in very short supply. Demand for MMA is rising, but supply is declining due to plant closings. Major chemical producers, such as Dow, are putting less emphasis on bulk petrochemicals. Climate change is also an issue in the biomonomer development, but not the key driver.